Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Reading, MA

  • Published 2023/03/13

The best things to do in Reading, Massachusetts, offer a fun weekend getaway with its small-town vibe and vibrant downtown.

Reading is a thriving community in Middlesex County.

Early immigrants of the Massachusetts Bay Colony arrived from England in the 1630s via the ports of Lynn and Salem.

In 1644, Reading became a town, adopting its name after England’s Reading.

Reading is about 12 miles from the heart of Boston, with a wealth of recreational, cultural, and educational attractions.

Driving from Reading to New England’s stunning beaches and mountains is also a breeze.

Here are the best things to do in Reading, MA:

Visit Parker Tavern

Exterior of the Parker Tavern

Swampyank at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Parker Tavern is a historic home museum and the oldest building in Reading, constructed in 1694.

During the 18th century, Ephraim Parker ran a bar in the saltbox erected by the farmer and blacksmith Abraham Bryant.

The Sweetser family owned the residence for the majority of the 19th century.

The Reading Antiquarian Society bought it for a pittance in 1923 after the town bought it in 1916.

Reading designated the building as a National Historic Landmark in 1975.

Unleash Your Creativity at Creative Arts

Students of all ages and abilities can benefit from Creative Arts Faculty’s high-quality personalized training.

All its instructors are Suzuki-trained and will work closely with you to ensure that your learning experience fits your needs.

With a group of local parents, Judith O’Hare founded Creative Arts in 1978.

They formed this organization to address the neighborhood’s lack of high-quality arts programs.

Creative Arts moved to the First Congregational Church to create a dynamic center for community arts education to meet the increase of aspiring artists of all disciplines and levels.

Today, it delivers outstanding performing and visual arts teaching to a diverse student body of all ages and levels.

Explore the Stephen Hall House

Exterior of Stephen Hall House

User:Magicpiano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stephen Hall built the eponymous house in 1850.

Originally constructed out of wood in the 1850s, this one-and-a-half-story structure is a fine example of Reading’s Gothic Victorian architecture.

This house has board-and-batten siding, tall and narrow windows, a central projecting gabled overhang, Gothic arched windows, and a deep eave with brackets.

Andrew Jackson Downing’s design is nearly identical to this home.

However, it appears to have been taken from another property in Wakefield, England.

The National Register of Historic Places listed the property in 1984 as a significant cultural and architectural asset.

Buy Souvenirs from Whitelam Books

Whitelam Books’ objective is to help readers find the next excellent book to read or give as a present.

It features a curated selection of new books across various genres.

Whitelam Book also offers unique literary gifts such as mugs, t-shirts, toys, board games, storybook-related puppets and toys, and greeting cards.

It also sells reading items such as book lights and reading glasses.

Besides selling books, the bookstore aims to be a meeting place and a hub for community events.

Each month, the bookstore features several book readings and signings; they also do children’s story time, scavenger hunts, and contests.

Buy Your Kids Gifts from Goodhearts Children’s Shop

Founded in 1999, Goodhearts offer high-quality traditional and contemporary apparel and gifts for infants and children.

From 2010 to 2013, GoodHearts has earned the Best of North Shore title.

Besides its everyday clothing, GoodHearts offers formal attire for girls and boys, including First Communion dresses and suits, Flower Girl outfits, and more.

The company’s owners, Amy and Karen, are working mothers with small children.

They know firsthand the importance of buying at a store they can trust for high-quality merchandise.

Tour the Capt. Nathaniel Parker Red House

Exterior of Capt. Nathaniel Parker Red House

User:Magicpiano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You’ll find the historic Capt. Nathaniel Parker Red House along Ash Street.

The two-and-a-half-story traditional Georgian home has five bays of windows and doors on both the north and south facades.

Before 1765, the house was a bar on the coach road, making it an instantly recognizable landmark.

In the late 19th century, Nathaniel Parker and his family still owned the mansion.

Business at the tavern dwindled after the construction of Andover Turnpike (now Main Street) in 1806-07, cutting it off from the rest of the town.

Take Photos of Saint Athanasius Parish’s Unique Roof

In 1960, the Archdiocese of Boston decided that St. Agnes Parish had grown to such an extent that they needed a new Reading parish.

This building was the St. Athanasius parish.

Daniel F. Tulley and Louis A. Scibelli designed and built the church in a modern style.

The church features a rhombus layout that is 155 feet long by 120 feet broad, making it one of the area’s largest churches.

Among the brick church’s most striking features is its concrete roof.

It is a hyperbolic paraboloid roof with a convex and concave axis.

After completion, the roof became the largest hyperbolic paraboloid construction in the West.

In 1962, Richard Cardinal Cushing dedicated the church.

Take advantage of the church’s unusually curved roof through photography.

Go Hiking at Reading Town Forest

You can find recreational pathways and conservation areas throughout the Reading Town Forest.

Established in 1930, the forest covers 290 acres.

The Strout Avenue entrance and the entrance next to Wood End Elementary School are significant entry points for tourists.

Residents have helped preserve the Reading Town Forest for over 90 years.

The forest’s natural beauty and the protected lands provide a welcome respite from the concrete jungle.

Bring Friends to the Meadow Brook Golf Club

Beautiful landscape of Meadow Brook Golf Club

Danita Delimont /

Founded in 1898, the Meadow Brook Golf Club features a nine-hole course.

The Scottish golf pro and course designer Alexander Findlay designed the course.

As a founding member of the Massachusetts Golf Association, Meadow Brook held an annual Meadow Brook Invitational tournament in 1903.

The tournament attracted many top amateurs in the state.

Meadow Brook, a private members-only club in Reading, welcomes members from different Reading neighborhoods.

You can find tennis courts, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and a challenging 9-hole golf course at the Club.

The clubhouse serves as a dining facility for the members and can cater to events for up to 140 people.

Its executive chef and dining room team deliver top-notch service, even for a simple lunch or a formal supper.

Go Ice Skating at Burbank Ice Arena

Burbank Ice Arena Ice Skating Rink is a year-round one-sheet indoor ice skating rink.

It started as a one-man operation in 1994.

Burbank Ice Arena’s ice skating programs for all ages attract not only the locals but also visitors.

Ice skating is terrific exercise and a great way to get out of the home, unlike working out at the gym.

The rink also offers ice hockey leagues, tournaments, clinics, and camps.

Prepare for a blast as you take to the ice!

Explore the Beanstalk Adventure Ropes Course

Go on an adventure at Reading’s top ropes course and zip line.

Conquer the 32-foot-tall Sky Trail ropes course and unleash your inner tightrope walker within.

Soar through the air as much as you like at the 69-foot-long Sky Rail zip line.

Participants must be at least 48 inches tall to participate in the course alone.

It features a lower-level ropes course called the Bean Sprout for shorter youngsters who want to experience the same adrenaline rush.

This is a fun experience for the entire family, with a track suitable for all ages.

Enjoy Date Night at the Sunbrella IMAX 3D Theater

Night view of Sunbrella IMAX 3D Theater's exterior

John Phelan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Sunbrella IMAX Theater offers the best moviegoing experience in Reading.

It’s a state-of-the-art cinema with the best image and sound, making summer blockbusters even more exciting.

Sunbrella opened in 2004, double the size of the similar theater in Natick.

It’s also one of two IMAX cinemas housed in a Jordan’s Furniture shop.

In addition to the theater’s excellent sound system, the chairs contain body-conforming foam and built-in subwoofers.

The Sunbrella IMAX 3D Theater can hold up to 500 people.

Let Your Children Make Art at Tin Bucket

The Tin Bucket has established itself as a Reading mainstay in recent years.

Tin Bucket is a gift shop where people may develop their artistic abilities independently through various activities.

They also provide customized private events and access to the gift shop.

Likewise, the Tin Bucket offers a variety of activities for children and adults, ranging from Art Camps to Paint/Create Parties.

Read a Good Book at Reading Public Library

Exterior of Reading Public Library

John Phelan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Horace G. Wadlin designed and built this two-story brick-and-concrete Renaissance Revival structure in 1896-97.

Until 1981, it operated as the town’s public school.

In terms of design, it’s the town’s most recognizable school.

After the library’s conversion in 1984, the National Register of Historic Places added the building to its record.

The library has a wide range of resources for all sorts of readers.

It also conducts various activities for children, teenagers, and adults.

Buy Fresh Produce at Calareso’s Farm Stand & Garden Center

It’s a great alternative to traditional supermarket shopping, which provides high-quality items.

Calareso’s Farm Stand and Garden Center also provides Dom’s marinated meats, a broad selection of cheeses, dairy goods, pasta, snacks, etc.

You can also find fresh-made cookies, bread, and muffins at the bakery.

Customers can also find fresh bouquets in the store’s cut-flower area.

Seasonal annuals and perennials fill its Garden Center.

The farm also carries bagged dirt, mulch, flags, and firewood.

As the seasons change, don’t forget to see its other offerings!

Go on a Quiet Stroll at Kurchian Woods

If you’re looking for some peace and quiet while being close to nature, Kurchian Woods is an underrated spot in Reading.

Unlike the more popular Reading Town Forest, Kurchian Woods is less visited and is a much smaller area to cover.

This makes it a nice place to walk your dogs as well, as you can easily explore the trails without much interruption.

Sprawling with dense woods and foliage during the fall, Kurchian Woods is also a great spot to take a few photos.

There’s a bit of wildlife here as well, so don’t miss out on visiting it along Franklin Street if you want to add more to your Reading outdoor excursions.

Do Recreational Activities at Memorial Park

Memorial Park is one of the go-to town parks in Reading, famous for its abundance of activities.

If you’re traveling to the township during winter, one of the most exciting things about Memorial Park is that the ponds transform into natural ice skating rinks.

This lets you appreciate the cold winters of Reading while doing a fun and scenic activity in the park.

Even if you’re not going during winter, there’s plenty to do here, such as exploring its nature trails and playing sports like basketball and tennis.

Memorial Park can be visited along Harrison Street, near the urban heart of Reading.

Experience Reading’s Nightlife Culture at Bunratty Tavern

Bunratty Tavern is one of the go-to places in Reading if you’re looking to spend a lively night over drinks and fun.

It’s an Irish pub that’s both a renowned tourist attraction because of its ambiance and aesthetic, giving you an authentic Irish-American vibe that Massachusetts is famous for.

Cocktails and beer are what Bunratty Tavern is known for, however—their Guiness being some of the best in the county.

Besides these, Bunratty Tavern is also a nice spot to grab dinner or lunch, as their Shepherd’s Pie is something you can’t miss out on.

Located along Main Street, this is an easy place to visit to end your day in Reading.

Splurge at Bagel World

If there’s one thing Massachusetts is proud of, it’s that their bagels are some of the best in the state—with Bagel World right at the forefront of it.

Always experiencing long lines, Bagel World is a must-visit during your trip to Reading as it’s one of the few food establishments that have made a name for itself to become a tourist attraction.

Many locals flood the place, but even other residents from neighboring cities and towns go here for their mouthwatering bagels.

Some of their best ones include the French Toast Bagel and their cream cheese variants.

A bagel shop that can rival the ones in New York City, go visit Bagel World along Main Street.

Grab a Unique Dessert at Dandilyons

Dandilyons is another culinary stop that you’d be hard-pressed to miss out on in Reading.

Brimming with all sorts of unique ice cream flavors, this is a haven for anyone with a sweet tooth, especially after a hearty meal at the many renowned lunch and dinner places in the township.

Dandilyons is famous for its affordable ice cream that comes in different variants, such as soft serves, sundaes, and the usual creamy and thick classic ones served in a cup.

Besides their ice cream, Dandilyons is also known for their cakes, a nice gift or souvenir if you’re looking for one in Reading.

With huge portions and a wide array of flavors, this ice cream shack is the perfect stopover in your trip.

Find it along Main Street, north of Reading’s epicenter.

Final Thoughts

It’s no secret that Reading has a small-town atmosphere.

However, it also has all the contemporary conveniences of a big city.

Its historical, ecological, and entertaining features provide a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of major cities.

Start planning your Reading trip today!

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